The green initiative overlooked by the hospitality industry

The hospitality industry has a significant role to play if the UK is to achieve its ambitious recycling targets, and to this end there are many carbon reduction measures catering businesses have adopted in recent years.

With the media spotlight on the problem of waste packaging, and food waste becoming of increasing concern, it is hardly surprising operators’ sustainability efforts are focussed on these areas. But much more can be done.

One area where the hospitality industry seems to be struggling to make real progress is in reducing the environmental impact caused by refurbishments, kitchen upgrades and maintenance.

Despite best intentions, budget constraints due to coronavirus will mean environmental concerns are currently on the back burner for most out of home operators. But staying in business needn’t come at the expense of the environment.

Due to the rapid evolution of kitchen technology and the high levels of wear and tear many outlets experience, kitchen refurbishments happen relatively frequently; on average every two to five years. As a result, newer versions of catering equipment are constantly needed for in-store cafes, workplace canteens, restaurants and hotel kitchens. 

Often the out-of-date kitchen equipment is scrapped despite being fully functioning, simply because there is no established disposal route. Not only is this a terrible waste of resources, it also doesn’t make commercial sense for operators who could recover some of the value of the surplus equipment whilst reducing waste.

We estimate the waste equipment market is worth at least £250m in the UK, and savings in carbon are potentially even greater. The good news is a sustainable and compliant disposal and resale option exists for surplus equipment that is no longer commercially required, and it is in this area Ramco is making waves.

Our reuse and resale of second-hand equipment model is growing in popularity with catering operators and suppliers, and the initiative has recently been adopted by two large contract caterers, in addition to an ongoing partnership with Mitchells and Butlers.

Regular investments in refurbishments and new kitchens were leading to significant volumes of surplus kitchen equipment, which previously was often sent to landfill.

Equipment that is surplus to requirements is now collected by Ramco and either sold to other foodservice operators via dedicated catering auctions, reused elsewhere in the estate or stripped for parts.

As a result, numerous pieces of catering equipment have been diverted from the nation’s shrinking landfill sites and our work has become an important part of these business’s sustainability efforts.

Of course, after so many months of closure and a tentative re-opening, the hospitality industry would be forgiven for prioritising its bottom line over its carbon footprint for the time being. But in overlooking this green initiative, caterers are also missing out on a valuable revenue stream by throwing away so many working appliances. 

Operator awareness remains an issue. A survey undertaken by Ramco at last year’s Casual Dining Show revealed only one in 10 catering industry professionals were aware of the existence of a disposal service for second-hand catering equipment.

Whilst there is an established second-hand market, it varies enormously and tends to deal with individual items of kit, rather than looking at a complete disposal solution for everything from a stand-alone operator to an entire estate. This ad hoc approach means environmental and commercial opportunities are being lost.

It’s clear that from both an environmental and financial point of view, there needs to be more awareness of disposal options for catering equipment. As more operators look to reduce their environmental impact and maximise revenue, the scope for developing a sustainable market for used kitchen equipment is significant, and the benefits too great to ignore.

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